Jonah and the whale mechanical bank sells at Morphy

Dan Morphy Auctions sold a Jonah and the whale mechanical bank for $119,925 on January 14.

It soared past its estimate of $80,000 by 49.9%.

Jonah Whale bank

J & E Stevens began producing mechanical banks in 1869

The model was designed by well-known US maker J & E Stevens in the late 1800s. It's one of the most sought after banks on the market.

It displays a supine Jonah who is consumed by the whale each time a coin is placed into the slot.

Condition is a huge factor with this particular piece, with prices ranging from around $10,000 to more than $400,000 depending on state.

This example is excellent, with only a small repair to the central yoke.  

The auction house notes the paintwork has been examined under a black light and is almost entirely original.

The world record for the model (and consequently for any mechanical bank) is $414,000, set at Morphy in 2014.  

A 19th century Chinaman in Boat bank realised $52,275, up 16.6% on a valuation of $45,000.

Xenophobia was rife during the 1800s and was often reflected and reinforced in mechanical banks.

Most famous are those that feature exaggerated depictions of black people.  

In the case of the present lot, when a coin is deposited a table in the boat flips over to reveal the man’s dinner – a rat. Around the edge are the words “Dinner is Served”.

The myth that the Chinese were enthusiastic consumers of rat meat was popular in the west at the time and persisted well into the early 20 century.

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